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Thanksgiving is about gratitude, family, and coming together at a table about to collapse under the weight of all the food laid upon it. Each holiday has a meal as unique as the people who surround it, for blended traditions and multigenerational tastes mean no two homes have the same combination of main courses, side dishes and desserts. This is also why there tends to be approximately a dozen of each to cook and serve.
If you have ever suggested swapping out an old favorite to try something new, you know this is akin to asking those who look forward to that dish to cut off an arm. But once Grandma catches wind of someone’s desire to switch things around, she’ll insist Mom add it to the menu—which is already as long as a Harry Potter novel—because food equals love in pretty much every octogenarian’s eyes. So by the time everyone has settled around the table, there’s a little of literally everything there to please the palates of even the pickiest eater (which is either your two-year-old nephew or that random guy your sister decided to invite).
Here are some of the many, many, many things you’re going to need to serve at Thanksgiving dinner to cover all of your bases.
- Turkey that at least one person will passive-aggressively insist is a little dry
- Turkey neck that the person sitting next to the one vegan at the table will eat
- Ham whose main purpose is for tomorrow’s sandwiches
- Mashed potatoes, plus another slightly different version of mashed potatoes
- Gravy in three different containers, each a different consistency because someone kept stirring more flour in thinking it wasn’t quite thick enough
- Sweet potato casserole with some marshmallows already picked off
- Candied yams because they are totally different than the casserole, obviously
- Stuffing: Bread, cornbread, rice with gizzards (WHY, Grandpa, WHY?), rice without gizzards, bread stuffing with clams, and Stove Top
- Jellied cranberry sauce for normal folks and whole-berry cranberry sauce for people who like eating tart eyeball-textured fruit
- Homemade mac and cheese with crunchy topping everyone on a diet avoids until their second glass of wine
- Boxed Mac and cheese to ensure your kid doesn’t starve
- At least one boob or bottle
- Something “healthy for the table” that two polite people will pretend to try
- Green bean casserole made with canned mushroom soup with all the crispy onions on top that will immediately be eaten on their own so someone will get threatened with a spoon if they touch them again
- Corn in butter sauce that the kids won’t eat because it’s not the cob and therefore totally not the same thing
- Pasta with red sauce from which some will be rinsed off to serve plain with butter for at least one second cousin
- Overcooked rolls you can’t call “burnt” and sliced bread you found to also serve when whomever made the rolls isn’t looking
- Corn bread
- Pie: Pumpkin, apple, pecan, cherry, chocolate, and sweet potato
- Wine, beer, and Grandpa’s super boozy eggnog
- Cola you better not get caught sneaking sips of to your niece or your sister will strangle you
BONUS: Restaurant reservations for your sanity next year.